Walking through town at 5:30am in the dark and cold I could be forgiven for thinking “what the hell am I doing?” more than a couple of times. But each pause for reflection was dispersed with the anticipation of taking another trip into Europe to see United.
We set about our journey the day before the game, turning away from easier methods of getting to Marseille and instead opting to take trains all the way, from Wigan – London – Paris – Marseille, over the course of nine or so hours.
The things you do for your team eh?
The day of the game and more and more reds are milling around the streets…most people following the same suit of getting a pint for six euros, baulking at the price, and then choosing to spend the rest of the day on the streets with cheaper, shop bought drink. There are also a few groups of Marseille fans walking around but everything seemed lighthearted, and the few home fans we encountered were welcoming enough.
A heavy riot police presence had been evident all day, but what happened when we reached the Stade Velodrome was inexplicable.
We arrived before kick off to be shepherded around the ground, amid a feeling of tension in the air. We’re then directed into some sort of warehouse, where there are approximately a thousand other United fans being held by a very heavily numbered, and heavy handed, riot police.
Kick off approached….and passed.
..And still we’re trapped in the warehouse with no explanation as to why. Tempers and patience are being strained before, in a seemingly clockwork motion, the riot police charged at United fans clubbing anyone within reach. Not satisfied with that, I witnessed three of them beating a young man lay prone on the floor. Twenty minutes after kick off before we’re allowed to move anywhere and eventually everyone gets through and into the ground.
I appreciate that sometimes being a football fan carried with it a certain reputation, but there is no legislating for what happened.
When we eventually make it through and into the United end we’d missed most of the first half…which by all accounts was no sad loss anyway! The game petered out without real incident or action, and the events before the game seemed to subdue the atmosphere amongst a few. Que sera sera.
Marseille fans will be warmly welcomed on their trip to Manchester for the return leg, as most away support normally are by police and Reds alike.
But of course…I hope they lose!